CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools are expected to announce a plan for remote learning to start the 2020-2021 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement is expected on Wednesday, a source told CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov.
That news came after an announcement that the Chicago Teachers Union planned to hold an emergency House of Delegates meeting early next week to discuss a possible strike vote, in an effort to pressure CPS into starting the school year with remote learning.
In an earlier statement, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students and staff, and Chicago Public Schools won’t open its doors on September 8 if public health officials don’t deem it safe to do so.”
“We continue to gather community feedback and closely monitor the public health data before making any final determinations for what learning will look like this fall,” Bolton added.
Last month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leadership announced plans for a hybrid model of remote learning and in-class instruction for the fall, which would have most students in classes two days per week. Parents would have the choice to opt out of the hybrid model, and have their students learning entirely by remote means.
Last week, CPS gave parents until Aug. 7 to decide between the hybrid model and remote learning. The district said it needs time to finalize plans for delivering full-time remote learning based on how many students opt out of the hybrid model.
The district also held a series of virtual meetings last week to discuss the back-to-school plan, and is reviewing thousands of responses to surveys regarding CPS plans for the fall.
While the mayor and CPS officials have said a final decision on whether there will be any in-person classes won’t be made until later this month, the union has said the only safe choice for students and staff is an entirely remote model for the start of the school year, due to the current condition of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We confront a terrifying reality: COVID-19 cases are surging across the nation, while [President Donald] Trump has successfully bullied the CDC to revise its ‘guidelines’ and risk the lives of students, their families and their educators by forcing in-person learning this fall. At the same time, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has re-imposed stringent regulations on bars, restaurants and fitness clubs to try to tamp down Chicago’s own increase in COVID-19 cases,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement last month, one week after CPS released its plan.
“Yet Lightfoot and her hand-picked board of education are committed to putting students and their educators back in schools in barely a month, while CPS’ charter operators are planning to reopen in less than two weeks,” Sharkey added. “This is both dangerous and profoundly inequitable for South and West side neighborhoods, where cases are rising again and which are already bearing the brunt of mortality and morbidity from the pandemic.”
Under the earlier CPS plan for the fall, students in kindergarten through 10th grade would have two days of in-person classes, two days of independent remote learning, and one day of real-time virtual instruction on Wednesdays.
Essentially, those students would have been divided into two groups – one group taking in-person classes every Monday and Tuesday while the second group is at home, the second group taking in-person classes every Thursday and Friday while the first group is at home, and both groups doing real time remote learning every Wednesday.
High school juniors and seniors would have done do the majority of their learning at home, except for those who need in-person vocational instruction, or other supports that can’t be provided remotely.
Students in special education clusters would have been in classrooms full-time, due to their unique needs, and the smaller size of their programs, according to CPS.
News of that possible strike vote comes less than a year after CTU members walked off the job for 11 days last fall, in a contract dispute with the Lightfoot administration, the fourth longest teachers’ strike in Chicago history.
A total of 75 percent of the 26,000 members would need to approve a strike.
All of this happens to come on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 58th birthday.